I’m so sorry to do this, I didn’t want to, believe me. But I’m driving my brother mad because I keep going on about Prey so I just need an outlet to get it all out of my brain so I never have to bother anyone else with this itinerant madness.
Ok so I was in a gaming forum on facebook and I dunno people still rave about Prey it has this cult following who really love and defend it to the death. So when I encountered this I had this niggling feeling like I was missing something and that I didn’t give Prey a fair shake. I feel like I judged it too hastily and maybe the price of the game was clouding my judgement. Maybe it wasn’t so bad but I was pissed because I paid full price and didn’t love it. So I decided to give it another shot since I got two months of gamepass for two quid (I returned my copy and got the surge which was half the price and much much better). I figured at that price point I could just enjoy it without feeling ripped off.
I still hated it, in fact I hate it even more than I did before and I’m going to go into painstaking detail to explain why haha.
The first time I played it I got the sense the game didn’t want me to use the alien mods and I liked using the turrets, I wish you could’ve put them in your inventory, that would’ve been awesome and made a lot of sense. I don’t actually see why you couldn’t since they fold up into a size that isn’t much bigger than the medkit and they stack. This game might have actually been super fun if you could’ve been a turret engineer build. Or even if you could mod your turrets for like fire damage or something.
So the first time I played it, I didn’t get any of the cool gimmicks like turning into a mug and shooting lasers from your face and by the end of the game I just got bored and stopped playing. At the time I rationalised that the game allowed me to play it in the most boring way possible and that was the games fault for allowing me to do that. I mean it’s shit game design if it lets you or encourages you to not use all it’s mechanics. It sort of shames you for using the alien mods and there’s an incentive to stay human. Despite the fact all the neuromods are made of alien dna so even if you use just the human skills you still have alien dna inside you. I don’t know how that works since the turrets scan you for alien dna and unless you use the powers they wont attack you. Also considering the ending of the game it makes no sense.
Basically I wanted to use all the cool powers to see if my opinion of the game would change, maybe I just didn’t do all the fun stuff the game had planned for me. So I started a new game with the intent to make the most of the alien powers. Starting off with the scientist skills that allows you to extract alien organs so you can make more mods and stuff and of course since I played it before I remembered you can literally get the blueprint to print neuromods basically at the start of the game.
Like in the area you get the glue gun for the first time if you use it to get the second floor you can enter a room that will take you to this neuromod manufacturing place where if you have the toy gun you can use it to open the door of the directors office and boom; infinite neuromods. Basically it breaks the game but you still need to fight aliens to extract their organs to make the mods but essentially you’ve unlocked the key to godlike power and the game was a cake walk from that point on.
I thought this would be pretty fun, spoilers, it wasn’t. The game let me unlock infinite neuromods before you even have the research scanner to unlock the alien neuromods. So I started to play through like that telling myself I was having fun with all the alien powers, researching and unlocking more as I went along but as soon as I got to the boring life support powerplant missions later in game and I had researched the last alien I needed to unlock all the powers the idea of continuing to play just became so tedious I stopped playing even earlier than I did last time. I didn’t even get to the annoying bit with the infinite spawning robots which wasn’t that hard but would’ve been a joke with the current god build I had.
See the game starts off hard like Bioshock and by the end of it you’re basically a greek titan haha. So it should be as satisfying in that regard but it’s just not, it comes close to being like Bioshock and it’s been called Bioshock in space and I know that’s system shock but I haven’t played any of the system shock games yet. But it’s true in my limited scope only having Bioshock as a reference, there is nothing shy a few gimmicks like turning into a mug or shooting a toy gun that wowjustwows the soyboys that isn’t stolen from Bioshock and maybe Alien Isolation. I don’t mind if a game borrows from other games as long as it gives it it’s own spin, adds something to the formula, but Prey just steals everything to make it’s own shoddy bootleg versions. It copies shamelessly and lazily. In other words; copy and add and improve don’t copy and make worse.
And now I’m going to anally list all the features Prey 2017 takes from Bioshock and somehow miraculously ruins.
Bioshock has 6 guns that have three different ammo types each for a different enemy type some even make it almost a different weapon all together. The guns feel pretty nice, they look nice being period style 1940’s guns (no colt 1911 sadly) the upgrade system is these stations that will add a visual change to your gun that will do something like increase the fire rate or mag size. You don’t really need them, it’s just a cool addition. The guns are spread out through the game and awarded to the player at certain points throughout the campaign, you can find or purchase ammo from vending machines. But a lot of the time you’re scrounging for it or money to buy it. You get the first 3 guns a little too early imo but the other guns are better spread out, almost 1 gun per new area.
Prey has 2 guns, count them a whopping 2 whole guns!!!!111!!! Yeah I said ‘guns’ a glue gun and a stun gun, despite have ‘gun’ in their name are not in fact guns. Neither is whatever a ‘Q-beam’ is. The game even acknowledges this as there is an entirely different skill tree for them. That’s right there’s a skill tree for guns and these miscellaneous weapons. But I’ll get into why that’s a terrible idea in a second once I talk about how shitty and lazy the weapon upgrade system is in general. In Bioshock you might not even find the upgrade stations, I’ve played it a hundred times and I don’t really care if I miss one or I get all the upgrades for all the guns and the game doesn’t care either, a shotgun is still a shotgun even if you don’t find the upgrade for it, it will still blow a splicers face off. So just take that into account, they go through the trouble of putting upgrades into the game that are even visual, someone had to design these visual upgrades, probably a team of people only for you to totally miss or ignore them, that’s passion, that’s attention to detail.
What’s the gun upgrade system in Prey? Oh you just have arbitrary bars you fill with gun upgrades that take up space in your inventory and you can craft them. So they’re not visual and you might say ‘well who cares?’ and I would agree if one of the bars wasn’t for firepower, that’s right, the damage the guns output are affected by the upgrades. But that’s not all, remember I mentioned skill trees? There’s a skill tree for how much damage you do with guns.
Now try to swizz that around in your brain, injecting alien jizz in your eye somehow makes guns hurt more. Ok take that in and then also try and wrap your head around the fact there’s a separate skill tree for the other weapons, the glue gun, q-beam and stun gun. They have their own skill tree on top of their upgrades. So there’s literally a skill tree for 2 weapons, count them 2. What does this mean? Well it means the moment you pick up that shotgun it not only sounds like shit but it also does as much damage as a silenced mouse fart through a pillow. Oh there’s also a skill tree just for the wrench too.
This really isn’t the worst part for me because all this you can overlook but what you can’t overlook is how Prey’s game design is set up to break itself. Because you can get pretty much every gun within the first hour of the game. The shotgun you can get in the lobby just using the glue gun to get into the security room, it’s stupidly easy. I got the shotgun before I got the pistol. Which also is terrible, like it’s silenced for reasons, guess in the future they don’t like guns to make noises despite the fact the shotgun isn’t. It might be just because they couldn’t be bothered to have a mod system to add a silencer or they wanted to dodge people accusing them of having weak sound effects. I mean the least they could’ve done is add a magnum or something, or just made the turrets fit into your inventory like I said before.
What I’m trying to say is games are a delicate balance of risk and reward. A game functions on almost pavlovian response mechanisms, so when you progress or unlock a secret or beat a boss you’re rewarded by the game which then encourages you to keep going for more rewards. Prey completely ditches those ideas and just tosses the whopping 2 guns whilly nilly throughout the world and it’s pretty much the same with the powers (if you find a gun lying on the ground somehow in bioshock it’s usually a trap haha). But this is one of the reasons I didn’t see a reason to finish the game, on top of the story/characters/motivations not being terribly engaging and the world not being very immersive.
Also side note, they also look like crap, the pistol is basically a generic 1911 knock off with an added bit to make it look sort of sci fi ish and your character holds it like a granny afraid it might bite. The shotgun is a bog standard pump action which looks almost exactly like the one from Bioshock but with some tacked on sci-fi touch screen shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a straight up asset flip, just take a generic shotgun and add sci-fi shit to it. In summary not enough guns but also they’re garbage. I mean compare the look of the weapons from this game to Doom not even modern Doom I mean Doom 3 or even to Prey 2006 and tell me which guns are more interesting.
What there are no rifles in space, just weird beam lasers that suck?
Oh also there are shitty grenades that are pretty much useless except the recycling grenade which if you think about it is just a regular grenade that recylces enemies. I had so many emp grenades in my inventory, I never used them, it’s just quicker to shoot them. Also the nullwave grenades are useless because they stop enemy powers from working but they also stop yours. You can get a chipset to block it but why bother, they’re not that useful or fun to use, I wasn’t even sure they worked half the time. There’s also a typhon lure which I also never used, the is just not good enough for it to be effective, or they’re too spread out maybe, it never worked or I never found an opportunity where there were enough enemies to make me think of using it. And yeah there are literally more useless grenades than guns in this game haha.
Bioshock’s powers derive from weird sea slugs that were discovered on the sea floor and I love that idea, it’s sort of vaguely Lovecraftian because we actually know more about space than we do about the sea. So it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a substance that’s like super stem cells that allow scientists to mangle dna. The themes of the game that Prey rips off is science unrestrained by government and morality.
The powers in bioshock are fairly simple, fire, electricity, ice, telekinesis, bees… that’s right fucking bees! You can shoot fucking bees from your hands! And if that doesn’t make you want to go out and get a copy or download a copy I don’t know what will.
But more than them just being cool, the plasmids are key to the plot in terms of building a world where people tinker with their own dna so they can light cigarettes with their fingers or work in a bee sanctuary without a suit, a world where you get a free telekinesis plasmid with a root canal (that’s actually an advert in bioshock). Each plasmid power has it’s own lore and place in the world, each power has it’s own background story. And one of the main reasons you explore the world of bioshock is to find more powers and gene tonic passives. This is one of the main reasons I hated Bioshock infinite because the reason there were powers in that game was just because they were in the previous games. The game wasn’t centred on them, they were just there because Bioshock in the title. The game was just about Elizabeth and it sucked.
Not only do the powers have their own reason for being in the game unlike Prey and Infinite they also have contextual uses. You need the electobolt power at the beginning of the game to get through an electronic door that’s short circuited. You need the fire power because Rapture is leaking and there are parts that are frozen over either by the extreme cold of the ocean floor or splicers with ice powers blocking your path.
You need the telekinesis power to move objects blocking your path and to get keys out of your reach. And you need to shoot bees out of your hands because it’s really fucking cool. Also I think there are parts of the game where you use the ice powers to make bridges out of water. I can’t remember if that’s in Bioshock or Bioshock 2.
The powers are also nicely level gated so you can’t just unlock like level three bees and just rape every enemy at the start of the game. In fact you can’t even buy the next level of it until you find it in the bee sanctuary where the beekeepers of Rapture use it.
Also every power is visual and has it’s own bespoke animations. Bioshock is really big on immersion so when you inject yourself with eve you actually see yourself injecting it into your arm and this also happens with your first plasmid which is the electobolt. You jab it into your arm and electricity shoots through your veins as your genetic code is being rewritten then you have an electrified hand which spasms out in this cool way to deliver a fistfull of lighting at your attackers. When you get fire you click your fingers to light people up, the bee power has bees living inside your arms like a beehive and you unleash them by spreading your arms and just swarming them at people and they fly around on their own. One of the reasons they’re the most OP power is because the bees have their own ai and they can find enemies even when they’re invisible or playing dead. Which sounds buggy but it kinda makes sense because bees have super heightened senses of smell.
Prey, you have powers because they’re in Bioshock and system shock and the people who made Prey have seen in charts and graphs that people like games with cool powers. Ok no you get powers by splicing your dna with alien dna and for some reason I’m sure it’s buried in some long winded boring email I didn’t read the aliens have all sorts of wacky powers (probably because the genius scientists gave it to them and didn’t see that horribly backfiring).
Powers like electricity and fire and ‘ether’ and psychic and technopath powers, don’t really see how you get these powers in space or find them useful when you’re a sentient blob monster. But I guess you could rationalise that they have adaptive powers and maybe some of the blob monsters became firey because fire is cool.
The gimmicky power that sold the game to people was the ability to copy the mimic power, so you can turn into any object. Which don’t get me wrong it’s cool and you can basically cheese the game and get into any area by either using that to slip through cracks, or the remote manipulation power that’s basically telekinesis to open doors (but not pick up stuff or catch grenades or do anything cool with it) or the toy gun to shoot door releases.
Some doors are blocked by heavy objects and you need to upgrade your strength like Deus ex and you can throw them at enemies. Which isn’t that useful, it’s useful in deus ex because you can use them as moving cover but most of the enemy projectiles are aoe so it makes almost no difference.
But I just want to point out that the remote manipulation, the strength and the mimic powers are all separate skill trees but each aspect of them is basically encompassed in one power in Bioshock which is telekinesis. You can open doors with that you can pick up objects you can’t reach and lift heavy objects, you can’t turn into a mug but you can throw gas canister at someone haha.
The mimic power is pretty overrated honestly, it’s useless in combat and stealth because you can’t really attack and it eats up energy staying in another form which is really dumb. Later tiers in the skill tree let you mimic a turret and a robot but I don’t see how that’s useful since to copy them you need to be looking at them. I mean like tell me how this makes sense; you see a turret but want to also be a turret so now you have two turrets because you are one, but the turrets shoot at you so you have to break them or deactivate them to get close. I just don’t see how that’s useful when you can just use the shotgun or another power. Sure it maybe saves ammo in which case what is the ammo if it’s coming out of your body? But you can make more ammo so… see what I mean? It’s kinda useless, and why would you want to turn into a robot, the enemies attack the robots and they aren’t really good in combat and you don’t take less damage as them? Maybe it’s something to do with the shitty stealth mechanics this game thinks it has. I dunno.
The powers are mostly useless honestly, the fire/electric/psychic attacks aren’t used to open doors or access other areas they’re just attacks. And moreover there are no animations for them. You just activate the power and decide where this aoe blast is going to, in this like time slow/stop mode and then a beam/ball of shit just comes out of your body and does a splody that usually in the heat of battle gets you too. I don’t think even the enemies have an animation for their beam powers it just like comes out of their chests and fucks up your day.
So there’s no real visceral raw feel of launching a lightning bolt at your enemy or snapping them on fire or launching a swarm of mother fucking bees at them! The game just feels restrained and sort of bland and passionless.
But now my two biggest gripes with the powers and this goes back to dishonored too but doesn’t seem to bother me as much in Bioshock even though Bioshock is probably the source of this bullshit mechanics. What I’m talking about is the non-regenerating mana/magic/energy bar. Which is especially annoying in Deus ex where you need to eat energy bars before you can do a fucking double take down, total bullshit. I hate games that give you awesome power but feed it to you through like a drip. It works in games like Vampyr because your power meter is blood and you can just take it from your enemies, so your enemies are just walking mana tanks. Can you imagine if the Darkness you had to like drink darkness juice to recharge your god like powers haha?
It wrecks the power fantasy completely. Although in Bioshock it doesn’t really feel as bad as it does in dishonored or Prey. Prey takes the fucking cake though because not only do your attacks consume energy (which isn’t a huge deal because you get a million psi hypos and you can make them too) but all the nuke powers are on a fucking cooldown. Like wtf? Who came up with that? Energy consumption and a cool down, one or the other surely? Like imagine you’re Adam Jensen and you do a takedown and then you have to eat a candy bar and wait like 30 seconds before you can do it again, what kind of bullshit is that?
I get it’s to stop you spamming it but that’s what the finite energy is for. I guess they do it so you have to get more powers and instead spamming one you use one then the other and cycle through them. But what if I just want to use the best one over and over haha?
The best one is also what this game should’ve been called (probably what it was called before bethesda meddled with it) if this game had any balls and had the confidence to be compared to Bioshock, which is “Psychoshock” it’s the best power in the game because it does loads of direct damage, never misses and it stops them from using their powers.
But no they pulled this weird shell game where they wanted you to compare it to Prey that obscure early 2000’s shooter that is nothing like this game at all and is in fact way better haha. And don’t look up the trailer for it’s intended sequel it’ll just make you mad that you live in the dimension where corporate politics gave you Prey 2017 instead.
My 2nd gripe was going to be the research component but I think I’ll give that it’s own category… like now.
Bioshock, probably ripping off system shock, I don’t know, still haven’t played them since writing this weird and long rant/essay. Basically you get this camera and you can research enemies by taking their picture and it varies depending on whether they’re using their powers or not. And this is how you unlock certain gene tonics, some of the best in fact, unless I dunno, you don’t like being able to turn invisible, well I mean it’s not turning into a mug but hey can’t impress them all haha.
So this game you’re exploring, finding new gene tonics and weapons and plasmids and you can get them through researching new enemies, of which there are many. But the enemies are a whole other topic entirely.
Prey you get like a headscanner thing (that you designed btw whoopdeefuckingdoo go you) and that’s how you unlock all your powers. So you’re not gonna find new powers exploring, only researching the enemies can unlock them. You find new chipsets which is this games version of gene tonics, but is there one that turns you invisible? No… no there isn’t. There’s one that makes your energy regenerate but it’s like at a rate of 0.02 per second so its basically useless. Which encompasses most of the chipsets, they’re unnoticeable, you forget about them most of the time. Whereas in Bioshock as soon as you pick up a new one it’s really exciting and you want to use it immediately. In prey you get one and you forget you even picked it up.
It’s another factor in regards to the structure of the game because you can get all the powers around the second third of the game. So at that point why are you still playing the game? You have all the weapons by then, you’ve unlocked and been disappointed by all the powers by then, the story? The characters? Maybe you just love Morgan’s fat brother who sounds half asleep all the time and you really want to meet/kill him for being so boring.
This is what I mean by what’s wrong with this game, it has no idea why people play videogames, the developers had no idea how to structure a fun videogame so it totally falls apart in the third act.
I almost forgot to mention hacking, the hacking minigame is something bioshock gets shit for but at least there wasn’t a fucking hacking skill tree. Imagine having a shitty hacking mechanic and then expecting people to invest their skill points in unlocking it. What level of fuckery are you on?
Bioshock you can hack everything and bend it to your will, using the security system and turrets to your advantage is really fun, sometimes I just turn invisible and let it do it’s thing for hilarious results haha. The only thing stopping you from hacking is the difficulty level but you get gene tonics that can help you, remove tiles, slow the timer etc and you can craft (I forgot to mention the crafting system, it’s so unobtrusive in this game I love it) a hacktool that instantly hacks anything. So it’s not a big deal.
Prey not of course this game has it’s hand out, nah you can’t hack unless you have the magic hack power unlocked by alien magic, and you need to keep feeding it skill points to hack higher grade stuff, which is mostly pointless since you can always just find the code or get in some other way, so hacking is a useless skill, unless you like reading a million boring emails about lesbian romances.
- Steve Blum phoned in voice acting. I don’t hate Steve Blum I love Cowboy Bebop to this day but that show is not representative of his shitty voices in almost every videogame on earth now. Every time I hear his voice I just groan and it completely destroys my immersion.
Bioshock is not graced with the voice talents of Steve Blum doing a shitty accent.
Prey is graced with the shitty voice acting of Steve Blum trying to do some kind of shitty accent, is it russian? Is it Swedish? Who can say but he comes in at the end to sort of be a villain in the third act and it’s as phoned in as it sounds (I think he’s also in the trailer, big yikes). It’s like they realised no one saw Morgan’s brother as a good or imposing villain and they just threw Steve Blum in there as some generic ethnic army dude who comes to kill you for really justified reasons, you could actually just let him kill you and that’s your ending right there. I remember me deciding to do that to end my first playthrough because it was just unbearable. (He’s also in Bioshock infinite, shock horror)
Bioshock this is the big one, this is the one that separates the men from the boys, the enemies in Bioshock are amazing. They’re not ok or alright they’re amazing, from their design to their characters and powers.
I didn’t know this until yesterday but the enemies are actually straight ripped from those really creepy pictures of ww1/2 era war casualties who had plastic surgery. Everyone must have seen those pictures of early skin grafts from third degree burns. Those faces are used to make the splicers in Bioshock and it looks amazing.
The enemies in Bioshock perfectly reflect the world, a decayed fallen kingdom that God has abandoned long ago. Where no boundaries exist for beauty or power and humanity/morality is a blurred line.
Their dialogue and voice acting is creepy and sort of goofy and funny sometimes. Which kinda makes it scarier because you can feel some humanity coming through, you almost feel sorry for them while they’re trying to suck the adam from your skull.
And there’s new enemies in each area, they’re each tailor made for their environment. There’s almost too many to list really in terms of their costumes and dialogue and powers and weapons. Their Ai is also great, they’ll ambush you and flank you and sneak up on you climbing on the ceiling.
They’ll play dead or pretend to be a statue and follow you and just when you turn around pretend to be a statue again.
And that’s not even mentioned the melancholy lumbering big daddies and the chipper little sisters that don’t even attack you but will totally fuck you up if you do haha. But that’s how you get adam to get new powers. They’re sub-bosses and they’re how you get your powers.
Then there are the “Bosses” I use that loosely because they might not even fight you, but there are head lunatics that run each area that have gone mad in their own unique way and they are their own personalities pushing you forward. They’re just so well written and embrace the goofiness and theatrical nature of the rapture. So much time and effort went into the characters and enemies in this game it’s remarkable.
Prey’s enemies are basically just semi-sentient marmite. One of the things that really put me off about this game and a lot of other people is how placeholder the enemies look. Almost no thought went into the design of these enemies above the mimics powers, but other than that they’re just little blobs of marmite that can turn into mugs. It makes you jump maybe once at the start of the game. But after that it’s just annoying like swatting a fly.
I say ‘enemies’ loosely because really there are only 3. The mimic (and then a bigger one) the phantom which comes in flaming hot cheetos, electric blue and ethereal flavours (it’s literally just the same model with like an electric/fire/ether filter) then there are the big blobs that have mind powers or technopath powers so they can control people and make you scared or control turrets and robots. The fear mechanic is weird because there are chipsets and skill trees to defend against something I didn’t even notice, like what does it even do? I mean that’s the mark of a great game mechanic when you don’t even know if it does anything haha.
Then there’s the ‘nightmare’ I think we’ve established Arkane aren’t good at names, Prey 2006 being nothing at all like this game (and ironically having lots of very interesting enemies and guns). The nightmare is basically just a resized phantom, he’s a big phantom which makes weird screamy noises and he’s scary until you eat like a million mars bars and just keep psychoshocking and shooting him then he like popes into a little turd you can loot.
In fact all the enemies seem to just sort of disintegrate into little blobs, almost like they didn’t want you taking a closer look at their models hmm…. hmmmmmmm.
And yeah I didn’t mention those weird cyst enemies that explode into little stingy heat seeking hemroids because the game doesn’t even classify them as enemies because they don’t drop anything, they’re just irritating globs of shit. Most of the time I didn’t even fight them I just tanked them or build a little lip of glue they couldn’t roll over haha. “Oh no our arch nemesis a one foot lip!”
Oh yeah I almost forgot those weaver enemies that spawn those little fucks but they’re just like a marmite pancake that make weird shit in the air. You get my point all the enemies look the same.
But really that’s not what bothers me and it kind of make me uncomfortable getting to the root of why the enemies aren’t satisfying to fight and why even if the powers were fun to use the enemies and the environments aren’t created to make the most of them. They’re more about opening different ways of traversal. I actually think this game would’ve been more fun as a portal style puzzle game without enemies. If it had any atmosphere it could’ve been like portal meets Observer.
Like you get mind control powers which sound fun but you enter most rooms and there’s just one phantom or two phantoms really spread out so you mind control one and then you’re like ‘Now what?’ as they just stand there and do nothing.
Like in Bioshock you can enrage people and just watch the shit fly as you melt into a corner turning invisible occasionally releasing a swarm of bees to make things interesting. In Bioshock the enemies and the environments are set up to be this big play ground for you to test all these weird powers.
And all the enemies in Bioshock are reactive to you, you shock them they shudder and stammer and stop, you set them on fire they’ll scream and run to find water (at which point you shock them again haha), you cover them in bees they’ll run around and scream (and say “I hate bees” haha), you freeze them they’ll chatter their teeth. Everything about them is giving you feedback that they’re real and alive and your actions are relevant.
What happens when you set the marmite on fire? It loses health. It doesn’t scream or react in any way it just is on fire now and it’s coming to attack you. Same thing when you electrocute it, it has no reaction other than losing it’s health and then coming to kill you.
This is why they feel so placeholder and I honestly think the game would’ve been better just as a puzzler. Because the combat and the enemies are terrible. The enemies aren’t fun to fight, they’re not satisfying to kill. I might as well just go into my kitchen and punch marmite, it’s cheaper and less time consuming than playing Prey and it might be more fun.
Bosses? What bosses? The main characters are really just generic and the tone is like going for realism but the art style is kind of goofy and bad looking and the aliens aren’t scary. So tonally it’s like halfway between Bioshock and Alien isolation in this limbo of being too goofy to be taken seriously while also being too serious to be fun.
Bioshock is just balls out goofy and it’s awesome, Alien Isolation is serious and tense and gripping and it’s amazing. Prey tries to copy them but just has no idea what made those games good. They just wanted to make the worlds safest game, borrowing elements from previous popular games and the name of a decent shooter to make this frankenstein reimagining of system shock to net easy cash. But it didn’t really do that, sales of this game were pretty middling (even though it didn’t come out at a time with very much competition) amidst lots of returns mine being one of them.
All the characters in Bioshock are memorable and sort of horrifying each in their own aspect but Prey characters are totally forgettable.
Recently I got the collectors edition of Bioshock and there’s a museum that’s this little section of the game that is an exhibit showcasing all the early builds of characters and enemies and believe me Bioshock literally has thrown away more enemy concept than Prey 2017 (I stipulate 2017 because Prey 2006 has a ton of awesome enemies) actually has.
It goes into detail why these designs weren’t used and the reason is because they were too silly or monstrous and you couldn’t see the humanity of the enemies, you couldn’t empathise with them, they were just faceless monsters you didn’t feel anything about killing. So they went back to human enemies who were disfigured and talked and emoted so that it would be more engaging to fight them. And they nailed it, the enemies are scary and also pathetic, they’re horrifying but also you feel sorry for them too.
Bioshock has this wacky 1940’s tone almost like fallout but a lot darker, the villains look and sound and move in cartoony exaggerated ways but it really only serves to make it creepier really. The silliness and chaotic aspects create a world where anything can happen and it lowers your guard for the darker moments. And Bioshock is pretty dark. It’s about a whole town losing it’s fucking mind from the top down. Losing their very humanity, but tinged with this whimsical dark ironic humour that pastiches the real world while perfectly satirising it.
Prey like all Arkane games has no sense of humour, the tone is played completely straight aside from some lame audiologs that aren’t funny. It’s basically set in the real world alternate timeline where the funniest thing that happens is a game of D&D and getting a toy crossbow. But Arkane also has a weird visual style which they toned down for this game but it still doesn’t look like the characters are meant to look realistic. In Dishonored their eyes are sort of too far apart and they look butt fucking ugly, every character looks like a failed experiment, I really don’t know what was going on with that artstyle, everyone looks like a deformed cabbage doll and their body proportions are wrong and it doesn’t really fit into the world, why are they like that? But again just like Prey it’s played totally straight, there’s no humour or satire which is in stark contrast to Thief the game it’s mimicking. That game was full of humour and satire. Arkane just takes itself too seriously, I think they forget they’re making videogames and videogames are supposed to be fun. It’s ok to laugh at yourself in a game, it’s ok to have fun and have silly gags. Games that Deus ex play it straighter than Bioshock or Thief but they have a clean crisp art style where the people and the world looks real. But even Deus ex has some humour, Jensen is this gruff block carbon alloy but he cracks a joke now and then.
So the result with Arkane is you get these static, stiff boring worlds that lack any sort of personality and aren’t fun to explore. It’s like their games are afraid of having personality or they might overshadow big daddy bethesda. Which is supposedly what happened to Humanhead after they made the original Prey which was a pretty groundbreaking in 2006, it did stuff Valve stole for Portal. So when they wanted to do Prey 2 and wouldn’t let Besthesda buy them out, they were cut off at the knees because Prey 2 didn’t meet their “Quality standards” *cough*Fallout76*cough*.
- The world/summary
Bioshock is a world gone without limits driven insane by it’s own hubris, it’s a whole city of icaruses (icarusi?) that got too close to the sun and got horribly burned but somehow limped on in the dark, driven mad by their failure. The sea itself becomes this oppressive and claustrophobic character of it’s own as you look out the window that could be leaking or freezing over or running out of air. The sea itself is scary, which is why I hated Biohock 2 because it removed the sea as an antagonist by giving you a diving suit. The world is so intriguing and weird and charming you’re literally clambering for the audio logs that litter the game and flesh out the world and give you hints as to how Rapture fell.
Prey makes the same huge mistake by giving you a space suit right off the bat. Yeah for some reason the uniform for all employees of this shady corporation are half life 2 inspired environment space suits. So why be afraid of space when you can just float around in it. I even played it on survival mode where you can get leaks in your suit but I always had a bunch of suit repair kits and for some reason all the suits have infinite oxygen if they’re not damaged.
That could’ve been a tense game mechanic like in Deadspace 2 but nope. Shit just thinking about the alien/weapon/environment/suit designs in Deadspace, that is another game ten times better than this haha. But imagine if the same people that worked on Deadspace made Prey, think of that level of attention to detail and passion.
I mean look at those games and tell me what Prey is, it’s not a shooter, the shooting sucks. It’s not a stealth game, the stealth is a joke, it’s not a puzzler, the puzzles suck. It’s not an rpg (whatever that means these days), it’s not a survival horror because it’s not scary, it’s not a visual novel waifu simulator because you can’t romance anyone and all the characters are either gay or not hot and their models look like ass. Oh no it’s an ‘immersive sim’ whatever that means. It looks like it means its shit at everything. I mean say what you want about dishonored but at least the combat is kinda fun and the level design is pretty good.
How hilarious would it be if there were romance options though. “Hey babe, yeah I’m gonna blow up the space station, so why don’t I blow up your space station, if you know what I mean?”
One thing they didn’t think to rip of though which would’ve been good is the thing. Like why can’t the mimics copy people? Maybe they do I dunno, I didn’t finish this game because I’m not a youtuber getting paid to do so haha. But that could’ve been a cool element, not knowing who was a mimic and who wasn’t.
Moreover the world isn’t interesting because in all honesty it’s basically just the regular world in space, it’s not this weird city underwater, frozen in the 1940’s slowly decaying from addiction to mind and gene altering substances. It’s also not a cyberpunk dystopia like Deus ex where people hack off bits of their body to replace with robot parts. So I have about as much desire to read the people of Prey’s emails as I do the regular world, which is not a lot. I mean why bother? There isn’t this great conspiracy I’m trying to uncover like in Deus ex or a world gone mad I’m trying to make sense of. It’s basically just a space station that was ordinaryish until it suddenly wasn’t. So listening to their audio logs is just a chore unless they’re giving you a code to something.
The audio logs thing, the earliest I saw it used was Doom 3 and in that game it was there to build the story and tension and creep the player out and it worked, the story basically being event horizon on mars, where hell is slowly creeping into this base driving people mad until they flip the switch and throw open the gates of hell.
But there’s this part of the game where you have to collect audio logs in Prey to open this voice lock and all the audio logs are basically detailing this lesbian romance that adds nothing to the plot or the horror, I mean maybe it’s trying to add a level of human horror because one of the lesbians dies obviously and the other is hiding in space, but I really didn’t give a shit. Maybe I’d have cared if these characters weren’t introduced to me in audiologs.
That’s another thing Bioshock does well in terms of the audiologs, there are only a handful of people that make them, so the voice acting is tight and it’s relevent to the plot and each person is defined as a character and has a role. In Prey everyone in this hyper futuristic space station is recording little audiologs and dropping them like breadcrumbs all over the place, why you ask? Because it’s in Bioshock that’s why.
Bioshock knew to keep the audio log character pool small so the characters would be more defined in their personalities. When you have everyone making audio logs it just becomes white noise, too many names, no faces to the names, spotty voice acting. There are too many characters that are ill defined and you never meet. It tales the concept and just drowns it in mediocrity.
So yeah in six thousand words or less ‘shit sucks, don’t buy it, and if you like it you’re basically dumb or something’. I mean no but… kinda yeah. If you like it, all power to you but have you heard of Bioshock or system shock or Alien Isolation or Dead Space, you know the games this game is ripping off really badly? I can only assume the people who like this game have never even heard of Bioshock, or they only played Infinite.
If any one who likes Bioshock and just wants to play this game to get more Bioshock, my advice to you is just play Bioshock again (that’s what I’m doing right now). Seriously, and that goes for the sequels too because I’d rather just play Bioshock again than play 2 or infinite, they’re not great but they’re better than Prey. So yeah if you want more Bioshock and don’t want to play the first game again just play the sequels or system shock. They’re coming out with reboots of that soon and a sequel which may or may not be terrible because I’m pretty sure it’s written by the same guy that wrote Prey so…. yeah.
But honestly, writing in videogames for me is hit or miss. Look at this huge essay and tell me how much I talked about the writing. A game can get by with shitty writing as long as it has a fun game loop and well designed world. Some of favourite games have little to no story and sometimes a game having a story sort of ruins it if it gets in the way.
Story is always a touchy subjects in games. I can’t remember who said but someone likened story in videogames to story in pornos like ‘it’s nice if they’re there but it’s not that important’. And honestly a story can be bad if it gets in the way of the game or it isn’t paired with a fun game. It has to learn to get out of the way of the game. It can’t be the main focus.
So the failing of Prey 2017 in my opinion is a team effort, it’s not down to one person, it’s the fault of the entire team just making a lackluster photocopy of a photocopy. They couldn’t grasp what made Bio/systemshock iconic or didn’t have the talent/passion to pull it off like the guys that made those games. Just like they couldn’t copy Thief with Dishonored.
So yeah if you’re still reading this you must be insane, it’s like over 7k words, I didn’t intend anyone to get this far, I just wrote this so I didn’t have to think about it anymore, so to the fictional person reading this now, please get help, there are people that love (probably not).
Ok gotta stop typing now, but I fear I may have to come back to this because I recently did a playthrough of Prey 2006 and although I wasn’t blown away I still finished it, so there’s that. It’s a fun, interesting little game that deserved a better legacy than this phoned in garbage.